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Theft?

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Have a quick legal question for any one who's interested. If an online game lets players customize / design a personal character, and some one uses "Mickey Mouse" (tm c..) would the makers of the game be liable for theft of intellectual property? Or can the game makers protect them selves some how?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
You are liable. Look at how Marvel sued NCSoft because you could make characters similar to thiers.

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
You are liable. Look at how Marvel sued NCSoft because you could make characters similar to thiers.


Just because you can be sued, does not make you liable. I could sue you for a misinformed post if I wanted to, and it would be dimissed easily.

ANYONE can sue ANYONE, its a question of wether it makes it to court and is successful. And as far as I'm aware the jury is still out on the Marvinsane/NCsane case.

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Perhaps in the US, in New Zealand it's a little harder to sue any one for no reason. The person or company normal has to be found criminally at fault first. So in the case of my original post, it may be copy-rite law.

Ok so what's the difference between me walking down the street as Mickey Mouse or being that character in a game?

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So....

Marvel didn't NCSoft because they really cared about people making characters that looked like Iron Man or Wolverine. They sued them because marvel had plans in the works for a Marvel MMO. City of Heroes hit close to home and basically screwed their business plan so they got all suey.

Companies genrally care only in so much as they percieve that you are effecting their bottom line. If they think you are, they will sue you and hope that the threat of a lawsuit is enough to get you to buckle to their whims. In a lot of these cases they don't seem to always have the strongest grounds for winning the lawsuit. They count on the fact that you understand the lawsuit will cost you a ton of money and that's enough to generally get you to "play ball".

It is very unlikely that any homebrew MMO or other game will suffer the wrath of tyrannical companies. I wouldn't worry about this until you actually have an up and running game that is sitting in the media spotlight. It's trivial to implement a name filter. However, if you are implementing an MMO disney game that's a really really bad idea unless you have license rights from Disney.

But if you really care.... talk to a lawyer. Pretty much no one here will give you advice comperable to what you can get from a RL lawyer.

-me

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Original post by bobason456
Perhaps in the US, in New Zealand it's a little harder to sue any one for no reason. The person or company normal has to be found criminally at fault first. So in the case of my original post, it may be copy-rite law.

Ok so what's the difference between me walking down the street as Mickey Mouse or being that character in a game?


I think the difference would be pretty obvious... if you walked down the street in a Mickey Mouse costume, you'd be wearing a big crazy mouse costume and likely have swarms of kids and news crews on your ... errrr... tail. Whereas, if you created the Mickey Mouse character in a game, it's just a digital, fictional character created using various settings and options in the character creation system.

Now, the big question is whether the company, whose copyright/trademarks this appears to infringe on, would consider this worthy of a lawsuit. Now, in the case of Disney, it is quite difficult to say. They have extremely strict policies for their employees, so I wouldn't be surprised if they pursued a lawsuit against either the developer or the user, regardless of whether the suit has any merit.

However, without prior knowledge of the possibility of creating these trademarked characters in their game, I don't believe the developers could be held accountable. And, for the user, how could they be held accountable because they happened to find a combination of character settings and options they liked that just so happened to create this trademark?

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Now that I think about it. I remember a recent legal precedent involving some P2P file sharing. That held the company was liable because they made software for the purpose of facilitating music theft.

My game is more along the lines of, letting players design there own skins. Something that allot of games (Quake...) allow.

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Original post by bobason456
Now that I think about it. I remember a recent legal precedent involving some P2P file sharing. That held the company was liable because they made software for the purpose of facilitating music theft.

My game is more along the lines of, letting players design there own skins. Something that allot of games (Quake...) allow.


If you state in your EULA that people are not to recreate copywritten or trademarked characters without the consent of the original owners, that should be enough to cover your own butt.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Would a developer of graphics program be liable if someone used it to violate copyrights or trademarks? Surely not.

I don't see how your game would be any different, and as you say, plenty of games allow customisation, whether it's entering the player's name, or using custom models. Surely the people who would be liable would be anyone who distributed skins which violated any copyrights or trademarks.

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Mot sure if anyone noticed, but Marvel's case got thrown out of court. The judge even labeled Marvel's claims as "False and sham" because many of the examples Marvel was using as examples of trademark infringement in COH were not created by players, but by Marvel itself.

On the other hand, NC Soft stays pretty much on top of that by not allowing players to create copies of trademarked heroes. It's in their T&Cs. They usually deal with it by warning the player and forcing them to change, though I believe players can be banned for repeat offenses.

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